TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 07: The Ford Performance Mustang Pace Car during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on May 7, 2017 at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, AL. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The well known ‘Pony’ will be running in Australia again, with news from Ford Performance Racing that the Ford Mustang has been confirmed to race in the 2019 Supercars Championship.

Ford Mustang confirmed to race in 2019 Championship

News that is welcomed by both fans of the Blue Oval, but also by some who can recall the efforts of Ford drivers of the past, who ‘ran the Pony’ around circuits like Bathurst. That includes Dick Johnson; team principal of DJR Team Penske Racing. His team have been committed to running the Ford Mustang, and to bring the iconic brand back to the V8 Supercars grid.

Ford Mustang Confirms Return

Ford has confirmed its return to active involvement in the championship, alongside the launch of its ‘Ford Performance brand’ in Australia. Ford Performance Racing was once a key manufacturer in the V8 Supercars, until Ford Australia decided to withdraw from the championship in 2014. That left teams scrambling to carry on the Falcon design; but only in namesake.

Teams like DJR Racing [now DJR Team Penske] and ProDrive Racing [now Tickford Racing] continued to run with the Falcon architecture, but with a Ford power plant heavily designed in-house. While they have had success since Ford Performance Racing (FPR) withdrew, the interest from Ford Performance in the United States, soon brought renewed interest from the Australian arm.

Car of the Future

That interest coincided with the changes to the ‘Car of the Future’ design rules. Under the Gen2 (second generation) rules, that encourage manufacturers to look at packages that stay within the V8 Supercars guidelines – yet can introduce innovative design. So with Ford Performance in talks with teams, the Australian arm promoted the perfect combination; the Ford Mustang and a Ford V8 power plant.

The current guidelines for the ‘Car of the Future’ chassis and specified control components:

  • Front engine
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Right hand drive
  • Four seats
  • Must accurately reflect the look of the road car.

All cars are subject to aero and parity rules. This is the next step for DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing in their 2019 development process.

V8 Muscle will continue to ‘drive’ the rear wheels of the Ford Mustang

What would a Mustang be, without the familiar V8 unit? That was the question asked by Ford executives and teams, before this weeks final decision was made public. This is due to the discussion of Holden race teams, in the introduction of a high-output V6 power plant.

“We had long discussions about powertrain and first and foremost we needed to be competitive,” Ford Australia boss Graeme Whickman told Supercars.com.

“We chose to go with the V8 as we re-enter [the Championship].”

“We felt it was a natural fit for Mustang. When you could sit there as a race enthusiast and as a car person you think ‘what are my options’ and given the change in Supercars’ view on what could go on the track, it could have been a Ford Focus; for example.

“But the Mustang was the right fit and that’s why we were always aiming towards that. We did the assessment and we decided Mustang was the right one.”

Dick Johnson has fond memories of Ford Mustang

One man still currently active in the Virgin Australia V8 Supercars Championship, is the team owner of 2017 Manufacturers championship winner, Dick Johnson. He was one of the few drivers to successfully campaign a Ford Mustang, back in the ‘Group A’ category days.

In 1985, in the period before he and his team mate John Bowe enjoyed considerable success with the Ford Cosworth Sierra, Johnson imported a pair of Zakspeed-built Mustangs from Germany.

While that was over 30 years ago, the other team principal, Roger Penske is much more familiar with both the Ford Mustang and the Ford Performance unit. And that relationship and ‘intellectual property’ that was likely a contributing factor to the Shell V-Power Team deciding on the synergy of their implementation of the Mustang model.

It has the fantastic benefits of being a widely recognizable car. One which should be widely embraced by both Ford, and race fans in Australia.

Welcome Return

“Having Ford back on the Supercars grid and with its iconic Mustang is going to be brilliant for the whole sport,” Rod Nash from Tickford Racing said. “We welcome the Ford Mustang to Supercars, and it’s fantastic that Ford, and its Ford Performance division, see the Supercars Championship as a great competitive environment and to be involved in.”

Follow the action and news from the 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship here on Last Word on Motorsports.

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